Five minutes with Jane Ashcroft CBE

Five minutes with Jane Ashcroft CBE

Jane Ashcroft is a woman committed to “changing the way we think about later life”.

As the CEO of Anchor, she strives to “provide services that support independent lifestyles…[and] focus on what people can do rather than what they can’t.” The not-for-profit organisation provides housing and care to 40,000 older people across England.

“A vibrant economy is about opportunities for all age groups”

I think it’s an economy where everybody can actively participate, whether that’s as consumers or employees. My vision of a vibrant economy is one where no group of the population is cut off from the economy… Fully understanding our changing demography is a main proponent of delivering a vibrant economy.

“Older people’s role in a vibrant economy can be whatever they want it to be”

Their place in a vibrant economy runs the full gamut: from startups and entrepreneurs through to consumers and disruptors, all the way through to employees and taxpayers.

“People’s expectations about the funding of public services have altered”

If you go back two decades, a lot of the services that people were accessing were fully funded by the government; people’s expectations were that they would always be fully funded. However, in the last couple of years, people have realised they might have to start funding part of their own services. Add to that the advent of the baby boomer generation becoming our cohort and it means people want real choice. Rather than publicly funded services and taking them as they come, people are saying ‘well I want a choice about where I live, and I have the power to make that choice.’

“If we expect our frontline colleagues to be providing care and support to customers, we need to demonstrate that care and support too”

The care sector isn’t a necessarily well-paid sector but we try to make sure that people have access to good benefits. Whether that is cycle-to-work schemes, access to technology, shopping discounts or things that matter to our staff.

“The search for a Minister was about encouraging joined-up thinking and demographic change”

The policies around working life, retirement, employment and many other issues need to be on the agenda of multiple departments… there are very few government departments that don’t impact on older people. The campaign began because we didn’t see much integration of older people’s issues with general policy direction, so the campaign grew out of that. We were trying not to call for another ministerial post but to call for someone senior to have the remit for joining up issues as they impact on ageing and demography… While there is no one with that role yet, I do think we have seen improved integration.

“Technology has to be applied as a force that enhances people’s experience”

There’s an ongoing issue about whether technology can replace the number of people that we need to work in care – care is a very people intensive business and with the introduction of the living wage, which we did a couple of years ago for our workforce… our experience is that technology can be used to enhance people’s experience and also manage risk. In our housing, people could have pressure mats that could communicate with us that they haven’t been out of bed in 12 hours. I don’t think we’re in the space of replacing people with technology, we are very much about using technology to enhance the relationship that we have with our customers.

“Older people are consumers not just the recipients of services”

The language around providing care has radically changed. 15 years ago it was considered disrespectful or inappropriate to call them [older people receiving publicly-funded services] customers, but we wanted to demonstrate the equality in the relationship and the fact that people are funding and paying for us. They have a right to have a say and should be involved in decisions about how services are delivered rather than being passive recipients… They are customers and they need to be treated as individuals.

“I think it’s a change in mindset that is starting to happen”

If we can change the opportunities that exist, be honest about planning for later life, think proactively about getting the best and think about it as another phase in our life rather than our life finishing at retirement. As the baby-boomer generation moves into later life, seeing ageing as a positive because the alternative to ageing is much worse.